The birth of modern Croatia was closely tied to the paternalistic image of one man: Franjo Tudjman. A self-described nationalist and anticommunist, Tudjman ruled over Croatia for ten years until his death in December 1999. In January 2000, presidential and parliamentary elections brought to power a motley crew of reformed communists, liberals, and globalists. The new leftist government does not make any secret of its desire to reforge links with the former Yugoslav republics and to secure entry into the European Union. It has demonstrated its desire to cooperate by participating in the American-sponsored “Balkan Stability Pact” that seeks to establish friendly ties among all countries in the region.

The new government was welcomed by Western apostles of global free trade and multiculturalism. Its landslide electoral victory demonstrated that the Croatian people wanted change—even at the expense of their national sovereignty. The widespread opinion among most Croats is that their country is now poised to join the opulent West.

Upon taking power, the new government declared that “Croatia will make a radical departure from the Tudjmanesque nationalist, authoritarian, and isolationist past.” Both Prime Minister Ivica Racan and President Stipe Mesic are determined to turn Croatia into a model of good democratic behavior. With the full blessing of the European Union and the “international community,” Croatia’s leaders now lecture neighboring Serbia on the rule of law and the advantages of economic integration with other Balkan states.

Both Prime Minister Racan and President Mesic are openly pro-European. Their task is easier than it may seem: All of Europe (both East and West) is now ruled by recycled leftists and former communist fellow travelers, supported by global plutocrats. Contrary to the claims of many conservatives, Croatia’s new rulers are not hypocrites; their policies mesh perfectly with the anti-state dogmas of old-style Marxism. What international communism could not achieve through class struggle and revolution, modern liberalism is attaining through “free” trade and economic globalism. In a world without national boundaries, there is no point in dismantling or safeguarding Croatias or Yugoslavias, since they will end up as part of a Brussels-based Euroslavia.

Ironically, the new Croatian leaders owe their current status to Tudjman: Without him, they would be politically nonexistent. Although dead, Tudjman still commands respect, especially among fellow nationalists—not just in Croatia, but in other parts of Europe. For his criticism of the legacies of Versailles and Yalta, Tudjman was disliked by Western opinionmakers, particularly by historians who had made a career out of the myth of antifascism.

Tudjman’s flaw, however, was his provincialism; he enjoyed a typical balkanesque lifestyle of nepotism and clannish wheelings and dealings. Like the hick who comes to the big city—whether from Arkansas to Washington, D.C., or from the Croatian hinterland to baroque Zagreb—and suddenly assumes the role of public servant, Tudjman cherished lavish and extravagant parades which cost Croatia a great deal of money. He soon became a strongman presiding over an impoverished Central European banana republic, characterized by a deepening rift between a handful of nouveaux riches and a growing number of working poor. Surrounded by cronies and yes-men, Tudjman gradually retreated into his glass tower; despite frequent televised homilies to the Croatian people, his body language and political preferences could not hide his Homo sovieticus-balcanicus core. Thus, Tudjman’s provincialism paved the way for the leftist palace revolution that took place after his death.

The task of the new government will not be easy. It has inherited ten billion dollars of foreign debt, 30-percent unemployment, an economy that has been stagnant for the past five years, and enormous frustration among ordinary people. Yet most Croats, at least by Eastern European standards, live well: Per-capita income is higher than anywhere else in Eastern Europe, and Zagreb is visibly cleaner and more European than any other city in Western Europe or North America.

Croatia’s new elites are mistaken about the West’s boundless benevolence. They believe that foreign aid will pour in from the United States and the European Union. The reality, however, is that more and more Croats face the cutthroat game of the free market. The average Croat does not care about the Western obsession with self-censorship, political correctness, and ethnic quotas. He simply wants to live well, like his virtual role models on Melrose Place reruns.

The new government in Croatia will also have to decide how to deal with Bosnia-Hercegovina. Not only is Bosnia populated by three irreconcilable peoples, with three different historical narratives, it also provides a training ground for thousands of U.N. troops who seek to prop up a multiethnic utopia. Once the foreign troops evacuate Bosnia, we may see a renewed Balkan killing field, with consequences that could spread all the way from Istanbul to Marseille and Frankfurt. Bosnia’s high unemployment (70 percent), its war-torn infrastructure, and the lingering intra-ethnic hatred of its three peoples could make it the catalyst for the balkanization of all of Europe.

Hence, Croat nationalists oddly regard the recently departed Slobodan Milosevic as the only standardbearer of true national independence in the Balkans today. The rump Yugoslavia is the only country in Europe that has rejected the globalist game and managed to slow the rising Muslim tide in Europe.

Although Croatia’s ruling coalition successfully dislodged Tudjman’s party, its rank and file is riven with internal divisions. This patchwork of six bickering parties is held together by electoral spoils, ministerial appointments, and deep resentment of Tudjman’s past glory. The new government has nothing to offer except opening Croatia to more Western influence with all of its devastating effects, including drug abuse and prostitution.

The new leftist elite (despite its occidental and ultraliberal verbal veneer) is an offshoot of the former communist system. It desperately seeks Western approval, yet it does not seem to realize that neither the European Union nor American taxpayers will provide a free lunch. The West will make some gestures of good will and deliver occasional sermons on the necessity of upholding market democracy in the region. But at what price? The imported liberal experiment cannot last. The new government is being pressured by the West to encourage foreign investment, yet it cannot afford the luxury of downsizing the huge state bureaucracy inherited from the Yugoslav communist system. Even Tudjman, fearing social unrest, did not dare tackle this explosive issue. Croatians are not willing to wait another ten years for an economic miracle. Moreover, nobody can predict the actions of the wealthy, conservative Croatian diaspora or the solidly entrenched, right-wing nationalist parties at home.

The biggest problem confronting Croatia (and all countries in the region) is the pervasive communist mindset, even among Croats who profess genuinely anticommunist sentiments. This schizophrenic worldview is widely ignored by the Western scholars and politicians who harp on institutional and legalistic measures that will rapidly establish market democracy. However, tolerance and civil society cannot be decreed by the United States or the United Nations, and liberal democracy cannot be learned overnight by people who have spent generations under communism. An American or German conservative may brag about having read Stephane Courtois’ Black Book, and he may be able to map every nook and cranny of the Gulag. But unless he lived under communism, he will not be able to comprehend the distorted mindset of the citizens of postcommunist countries. Half a century of communist laziness, the transvaluation of all values, and the depletion of Eastern Europe’s gene pool have completely ruined the prospects of forging a civil society—at least for the next hundred years. In the decades to come, in Croatia and throughout Eastern Europe, the communized masses will continue to cry out for economic security, rejecting Western notions of self-initiative and civic responsibility. Western entrepreneurs will find Homo sovieticus is not extinct and will be forced to reassess their investments. A citizen in post-communist Croatia, or elsewhere in Eastern Europe, cannot change his stripes simply by declaring himself a disciple of global democracy.

All postcommunist countries, including Croatia, committed a fatal error in 1991: They did not immediately undertake the radical process of decommunization and re-education. But they also did not examine the essence of the only forceful alternative at hand: Western liberalism.